How She Move
There is nothing new with films that feature dancing. After all our parents and grandparents lined up to watch Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly performing their best moves on the screen. Now, the trend is moving away from the elegance of Astaire and the flair of Kelly to the more urban influences of modern street moves and club dances. This current string of flicks is never heavy in the script department. All they have to do is set up some conflict that can only be resolved with some sort of life or death dance off. When you look at the classic films of the dance genre there really wasn’t much of a plot in them either. Usually it was boy meets girl, girl rebuffs boy, boy dances, they fall in love and live happily ever after. The latest such movie ‘How She Move’ is lame in the story department but incredible in the dance moves these young people manage. The flick is not great; it is not even the best in the genre but it is entertaining especially with the dance sequences. If you look on IMDB it is number 8 in the bottom 100 films of all time. There is no way that this film deserves to be on that list at all. It just goes to show you that such internet based rankings can be manipulated and should not be taken too seriously. Now the Paris Hilton flick ‘The Hottie and the Nottie’ now that deserved its ranking on that site.
The screenplay was written by Annmarie Morais who is a new comer to feature films. Her previous experience was with some television work. There are voice-overs in the film that are supposed to suggest stream of consciousness thoughts. This has been a literary device for centuries but the device is set back quite a ways here. It is possible to get over the obvious grammatical errors, one of which is present in the title of the flick. People, even with the finest of educations, do not always think in precise sentences. What does fail to work here is the plot of the script. It has been done so many times that there is nothing possible left to create suspense or surprise with the viewers. A girl has managed too get out of the lower working class school system and attend a high price school. When there is a death in the family she is force to leave the school. The quagmire that presents itself is to take an arduous test that will secure a scholarship or join a step dancing troupe to win a big cash prize. The choice is between long term success or a quick fix of much needed money. The dialogue is taken almost entirely from previous movies of the genre; almost word for word. The flick comes to a stretching halt when the actors have to stop dancing and recite the tired lines. It is not like this script is all bad; it does have its moments. Underscoring the plot is the quest for the American dream. The main character wants a life better than her parents. She wants to do this not only for herself but to make them proud of her. They are immigrants and they came to this country for a better life for their children. When her sister becomes addicted to drugs the parents are faced with a difficult choice that ultimately throws the young student’s life off course. This does add a bit more drama than usually found in a dance flick.
The film was directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid. He has a couple of shorts and one other feature film to his credit. He film dealt with a clash between the gay and Muslim cultures so he has experience with a culturally. In this film Rashid is really dealing with two separate films. In the first he has to move along the dramatic side of the movie letting the audience receive enough time to get into the plot. He does this slowing down the pacing in this section to allow the story time to simmer and develop. Then there is the part of the film that really fills the seats. This second aspect of the film is where it truly shines. These dance moves are simply put unbelievable. It is as if the law of gravity has been revoked as the cast propel themselves into the air and over objects most of us would have trouble climbing over. This is definitely not your grandparent’s dances. It is based on step dancing which is one of the most energetic and hyperkinetic dances possible. The precision of the troupe is amazing to watch. You will forget any flaws or shortcomings of the film as you are pulled completely into the movements. The bodies of the dances are extended to become percussion instruments as they slap their hands, pound their fists and stomp their boots on the floor. Rashid made this film on a very limited budget. He also used a 16mm hand held camera that gives a gritty immediacy to the movie. His style of direction is up close and personal and that goes a long way to carrying the film. The film may its drawbacks but the direction is certainly not one of them.
Raya (Rutina Wesley) is a teenaged girl with drive, ambition and intelligence. She is also athletic and an excellent dancer. Her way to a better life centers on her attendance in a high priced private school. Her Jamaican immigrant parents, Faye (Melanie Nicholls-King) and David (Conrad Coates), have sacrificed just to be able to send Raya to the school. When her sister, Pam (Ingrid Gaynor) gets involved with drugs things take a turn for the worse. Her parents have to spend her tuition money on a rehab facility for Pam. That doesn’t work out well since Pam soon overdoses and dies. Raya finds herself in a dilemma; she can take an exam for a scholarship to the school or try to win the money in an annual step dancing competition. In order to get into the contest she has to find a troupe to join. There is one possibility but it is an all male squad that is not quite ready to include a girl. She has to win them over with her talent and help the guys to the top of the competition in order to make her dreams a reality.
The film is released on DVD through Paramount Vantage, a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. As usual the technical quality of the disc is excellent. The video is in 1.85:1 anamorphic with excellent color balance. The Dolby 5.1 audio is rich and full. This is especially true for the pulses pounding dance numbers. There are also a few extras provided that is better than usual. There is a look at the characters of the film. Next there is a look at the dance numbers from rehearsal to production. It is something else to watch these people go through the demanding steps required. Last there is a featurette showcasing the telling of the story. This is above average for the genre and deserving of your time.